You know how sometimes you find in yourself in a situation whereby you need to get yourself and six associates from A to B as quickly as possible? Well, what’s the best car for the job? It’d also be nice to see a chunk of change from £100,000, too. It’s a niche area of the automotive market, but it’s one Audi has an answer for in the shape of the Audi SQ7. Take the tried and tested Q7, add the tried and tested 4.0-litre twin-turbo V8 and here you go. Do you need a family wagon to tick of 0-60mph in 4.0secs? Of course not. Do you want one to? Well, once you’ve driven the Audi SQ7 you most probably will.
We reviewed the Audi RSQ8 a while ago and found a bombastic car that represented an engineer’s playground. Put simply, it did things that a car of that size shouldn’t. I was expecting the Audi SQ7 to be a toned down version of the RSQ8. Same engine, different engineering, slightly different approach. Not adorned with the hooligan RS badge, surely the Audi SQ7 would adopt a somewhat more subtle approach?
From the outside, it certainly does. Bar the SQ7 badges on front and rear, there’s no overt styling to warn fellow road goers of what this car is capable of, save for more aggressive, protruding exhausts. It looks like an Audi Q7, all massive grille at the front and oddly attractive at the rear. When you open the door, too, it’s all familiarly top end Audi. That’s to say, very nice indeed. A couple of S logos, but that’s about it.
Then you start the engine. There’s an unmistakable V8 roar to instantly remind you what you’ve spent your hard-earned cash on.
Driving the Audi SQ7
The engine really is the centre piece of the Audi SQ7. It’s the same unit found in everything from this to the Bentley Bentayga and Lamborghini Urus. The VW Group is rather smitten with this powertrain, understandably so, and deploys it far and wide. Being an S rather than an RS, there are a few horses missing compared to the RSQ8.
Not that you ever really notice. There are still over 500 of them present and a whopping 770Nm of torque. 0-60 in 4.0secs, a top speed of 155mph and there’s more than enough to keep you interested. In fact, so potent is the Audi SQ7 combined with an impressive level of refinement that you’re often travelling a lot faster than you intend. The serenity of the ride quality makes 70mph feel like 50mph. Throw in the knowledge that there’s a lot more power in reserve and temptation calls you whenever the road opens up.
The Audi SQ7, however, is still a family SUV. Start throwing in passengers and luggage and the weight rapidly approaches three tonnes. This knowledge demands circumspection around the first few twisty roads you encounter. Where is the grip level? You don’t really want three tonnes getting out of shape on you.
Yet the Audi SQ7 is remarkably composed. Treat it with respect and it hustles along pleasantly enough. No one is going to buy one for a track day, anyway. What they will buy it for is the reserves of power. Overtakes are supremely simple and making progress on the motorway is laughably easy. A gentle dab of the right foot and all that torque sends your surging forward. This is a car for ticking off long distances at a canter.
Living with the Audi SQ7
Unsurprisingly for a car that’s a similar size to your front room, practicality is great in the Audi SQ7. The seats are easy to fold and move, and even with all seven in use there’s 326-litres of boot space. Fold the back bench and you get 750-litres. Being picky, there isn’t loads of storage space up front. The centre console is very shallow and things can clunk around in the door bins.
If you’ve recently had sextuplets then the Audi SQ7 is a great choice, as it features six ISOFIX points, one for every passenger seat. You’ll probably need a roof box as well, but you can get one for the Audi SQ7. Another niche area ticked off.
Unusually for a press car, Audi hadn’t gone mad with the options for the car tested. The child inside me was appalled; I want a panoramic sun roof! I want massage seats! But, it did offer a more realistic assessment of what you can get. Navarra blue paint adds £750 and I really like it. Box ticked. The city assist pack comes in at £1450 and adds more bongs and beeps. Nah. Then the comfort and sound pack at £2295 adds the 360-degree camera with top view, park assist and parking aid plus, then the Bang & Olufsen premium sound pack. In a car this size, it’s worth every penny. Box ticked.
This makes parking remarkably easy for such a gargantuan car. It will park itself and the top view and cameras ensure you’re kept from bumping and scraping nearby objects. One gripe is that adaptive cruise control is part of the tour pack, not fitted here, costing £1750. That should probably be standard on a car coming in at £86,000.
To return to the opening question, the answer is the Audi SQ7. Other seven seaters are available, but none matches the breadth of outright performance married to refinement and practicality as the Audi SQ7. There are inherent compromises, not least 22.0mpg achieved over 400 miles of driving. If fuel consumption is your aim, super SUVs are not your game. But when you experience this thing hurtling towards the horizon, such concerns take a back seat.
It also, dare I say it, represents decent value for money in the niche super-SUV segment. Such cars are inherently excessive, yet they also have a breadth of demands placed upon them that no other cars do. They need to be luxurious, rapid and retain an air of off road capability. The Audi SQ7 ticks each box.
It is at times perhaps a little too subtle. Whereas RS models get a drive mode button on the steering wheel, you have to dive into the touchscreen to select dynamic in the Audi SQ7. This is a bit irritating when you’re in efficiency but spot a quick overtaking opportunity. There’s still plenty of welly in efficiency, but it’s nice to have it all to hand at the push of a button. The exterior subtlety is entirely by design, leaving the outright aesthetic aggression to the RSQ8.
The Audi SQ7 answers every question asked of it. Seven adults can be carried around comfortably, you can fit more children in than you’ve probably got and you can outstrip most sportscars off the line with ease. Seven seats, unnecessarily fast and under £100,000? The Audi SQ7 is a compelling proposition. It’s an entry level super-SUV that further asks, do you really need anything more? You can spend an extra £200,000 in this segment without getting much else.